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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Virtue Names For Baby Boys

Amanda writes:
We are pretty sure we are expecting a daughter late this fall. We have a daughter who is one named Hope Elizabeth. Our last name is Burleson. I really really love virtue names, and I just love the name Mercy for baby # 2. In case this baby or future children are boys, the only virtue name for a boy I can think of that I like is Justice. Can you or your sweet readers think of anything else? We are moving to an African country where virtue names are very common, so while I do think having all your kids with virtue names is a bit cheesy, I also love it and think it is beautiful and perfect for us.

OH, yes, boy virtue names are so sadly skimpy!

One of my favorites is Merit.

Another is August. I think of it as a month name but it's also a virtue name: the word august means "inspiring admiration; venerable; of supreme dignity."

I also like Worth. I think it comes across as a pleasingly old-fashioned name, like Ward.

Sterling works, too, if we think of it as referring to character: one definition of sterling is "thoroughly excellent."

The Baby Name Wizard mentions Constant, Sincere, Reason, Truth, and Wisdom.

Or there's Earnest: "serious and sincere."

Or Loyal.

Or True.

Or Noble.

Or Moral.

Or Reliance, which sounds a little like the more common name Riley.

Pax might work: it's a word for peace. However, it's generally used for IMPOSED peace---the kind of peace a stronger country forces on a weaker one (Pax Britannica, Pax Romana). On the other hand, I find that doesn't keep me from thinking of the word as meaning the regular kind of peace, and the Britannica/Romana addition being the part that makes it forced.

I also suggest Able. There could be some spelling issues because of confusion with the name Abel---but my guess is that the little Abels out there get misspelled as Able, too.

I'm not sure how far you want to drift from mainstream names, but Benevolent is a great virtue name, and has the more familiar nickname Ben if needed. Or Philanthropy, with Phil? I don't know, these might be getting a little close to names like Peace-That-Passeth-Understanding Jones.

Can you think of more boy virtue names to add to our list?


Carolyn said...

What about Valor? I don't know if it's actually used as a name, but it seems like the male equivalent of Valerie and Val Kilmer makes the nn usable for boys.

Slim said...


Elisabeth said...

There's Concord, which comes off as a place name to me, but does in fact mean agreement.

Elisabeth said...

Oh, or just Will? In the "ability to restrain/exert yourself" sense?

Beth said...

Maybe this is a bit of stretch, but how about Constantine? To me it seems a bit like a male counterpart to Constance.

Your girl names Mercy and Hope are both lovely.

Hope T. said...

I love virtue names, also. Swistle has listed most of my favorites but I also like Clement - "mild and merciful". To my mind, a sibling pair named Clement and Earnest would be perfect.

Lynnette said...

Oooh, Caroline, I really like Valor. Almost looks like a more trendy boy name like Talon but less, um, claw-sounding.

Lynnette said...

Sorry, Carolyn.

Nicole Trager said...

Well this is tough.. I do really like Noble for a boy. Some Latin virtue names may suit boys better rather than their English variations.. How about..

Dexter- Right
Verus - Truth
Fidelis- Faithful
Fortis- Strong, Brave

I would encourage you to think of virtues you would like a boy to reflect and looking in a latin online dictionary... my fave from this list is Fortis(nn Fort).

changelivlife said...

This was fun! The very first one I thought of was Valor, which the first commenter mentioned.

I have several--though some are definitely a stretch.


And I would second Swistle's suggestions of Merit and Worth.

My favorite from the one's I listed? Prosper. Prosper Burleson.

I love it already. Good luck to you and thanks for the fun topic.

Megan said...

Wow! The only ones I came up with were Justice and True. I'm impressed with everyone's ideas :) Really love the sound of Noble.

beyond said...

I like the sibset Hope and Mercy! The names I can think of have been suggested. I do like Valor and Worth and Noble very much, all strong and masculine sounding. I also think Victor and Ernest would work wonderfully. Hope and Victor: LOVE.
Goos luck!

liz said...

My favorite girl virtue names are Patience and Prudence. Especially for twins.

They can also be Patient (Pat) and Prudent (Denny) for boys. Strong and Swift. Felix is also a good one, as is Loyal.

Jennifer said...

Hi Swistle! Thought I would point you to a baby naming story on NPR. Be sure to follow the link at the end to help the couple who are looking for a name for their baby, due in July. Hope you are having a great summer!

Barb @ getupandplay said...

My favorite one mentioned so far is Loyal!

Swistle said...

Jennifer- Oh, fun! I think they should name him Felix!

The Cochran Fam said...

I know a man named Worthey. Love it!

Patricia said...

Years ago I knew a boy named Freeland, and I've come across Freeman as a given name too.

The Puritans favored virtue names, including these for boys (most of which wouldn't work too well today):

I'm not sure virtue names work as well for boys as for girls. Maybe another theme for the boy(s) in your family? Biblical names? Surnames of famous men you admire, eg., Lincoln, Jefferson... or the entire name, such as Thomas Jefferson Surname? Or classic names with virtuous meanings?

Elizabeth said...

How about Honor?

vanessa steck said...

this is a tricky one, because I generally dont like virtue names even on girls, unless they are already/also established as names (e.g. Hope, Grace). But that's just me and my crazy.
But also...there just aren't a lot of great boy virtue names out there! Also, Hope is lovely--truly--but tricky to find a boy name for. (Mercy is nice with it, although I'd prefer Grace, which seems somehow less burdensome. Or Honora, which I like because it is less burdensome--adding the a takes away some of the pressure. But this has nothing to do with boys virtue names.

So, OK.
Tru I like as a nickname for Truman.Justus MAYBE. My favorite, though, is Sterling or August. Hope and Sterling. Hope and August. Nice.q

Anonymous said...

I really like the suggestion of Kindred, nn Kin from above. I love Ben Franklin. If I was looking for a boy's virtue name, I'd likely turn to the Silence Dogood letters and consider every capitalized word. These don't seem as much virtue words, but still interesting.

- Consequence, nn Quin
- Rhetoric, nn Rick or Rhett.
- Liberty, nn Bert
- Reverence, nn Vern

Ashley said...

Favourite post EVER. I love virtue names! At the risk of repeating (sorry), some of my faves for boys are (stars by ones I LOVE):


Mercy is one of my favourites for girls, along with Remember, Patience and Comfort (the last two are old family names, too).

rachael said...

this isn't really a virtue, but i like the nme Risk for a boy.

The Mrs. said...

Oh, the name 'Ernest' is so great! (Who can resist "The Importance of Being Ernest"?)

As far as new names to add to the list... what about 'Strong'? Or even 'Armstrong'? Especially with the last name of Burleson!

I've heard the name 'Manly' before for a boy. It reminds me of 'Manny' or 'Danny', and I would imagine most boys would see being manly as a virtue.

'Frank' would qualify as well. "Let me be frank with you..." It means to be honest.

'Bold' Burleson would be good. It sits fine on the ear because of names like 'Bo'.

Early Americans used the name 'Humble' for guys. Humble Burleson.

Virtue names are some of my favorites, and boys DO get overlooked a lot in this category. Excellent post, Swistle!

Best wishes to you and your growing family (whether here or abroad)! Hope and Mercy sound beautiful together.

kimma said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kimma said...

Keen is a good one that hasn't been mentioned yet. It is used in Ireland, but often spelled Keane (I don't know if this changes its meaning.)

Another is Maxim "a brief expression of a general truth, principle, or rule of conduct".

Felix is one of my favourite boys names - I hadn't really thought of it as a virtue name before, but it definitely fits this category.

Joanne said...

I think this is wildly interesting. I never have thought about it myself, but I do always like the character of Happy in Death of a Salesman. I just love the idea of hearing "Happy" every time you hear your name. I just heard of a baby named Firstname Scholastica, so maybe Scholastic? I don't know what could work for a nickname, though. I also wonder if Job (pronounced Jobe, like the bible version) is synonymous with Patience enough that it would be a virtue name on it's own. I really like Noble and Valor, for names that have been mentioned.

Mrs. Haid said...

I had a student named Noble and he didn't like his name at all. Especially as a crafty, sneaky little middle schooler! But I like the idea of living up to your name.

Nicole J. said...

It isn't a virtue, but I think Shepard has the same feeling.

I also like Perseverance, with a nickname of Persy/Percy or Vance, although it might be too close to Constance to be a good boys name. Might make a good middle name.

There was a prominent judge named Learned Hand. I've always wondered how his mother felt calling a baby Learned.

According to his Wiki, which I just looked at, Learned was his middle name, which supports my feeling that virtue names on boys might be better as middles. His Wiki says he had a cousin named Augustus Noble Hand, and he named a daughter Constance, so it may have been a family tradition, like the poster is considering.

Like Nicole Trager said, the poster may want to consider looking at virtue names in other languages. For example, Kraft, which means strength in German.

It's a great question!

Anonymous said...

I think I'd prefer the spelling Valour (how we Canadians would spell it). Looks a bit plumper.

Megz said...

Depends a bit on what your definition of a 'virtue' for a male is. My first thought was "Brave" but it doesn't make a good name. Neither does Bravo, Bravisimo or Brava.

Personally I also think Charisma is a great attribute for men, but makes a better name for women.

A couple of other attributes that would work as names (I don't think they've been said already):

Grant (as in 'to give')

NINJA said...

I agree with Valor. I was just going to post that when I realised someone else already had!

NINJA said...

Oh or "Trust"

Jenny Grace said...

Haven't read the comments, but has Royal been mentioned?

Jan said...

You could give these a virtuous meaning:

Anonymous said...

My favorite for a boy, brother to Hope, is Victor. Maybe Victory, called by the full name or by Victor.

Awesome suggestions, I never would have thought of some of these...

Anonymous said...

I just met a man named Wisdom. He's from Ghana originally & is now in Canada as an academic (suitably!) On meeting him, I hadn't yet read this post & thought of how Wisdom seems like such a *natural* name I'm surprised it isn't used more often. It has a resonance with Adam & Wesley. However, it could be shortened to Whiz, which depending on your taste is either fantastic or not-so-great! (Could also be shortened to Dom, ala Dominic?)

Sonja said...

Are you the same Amanda from Multnomah?

Meggan said...

As an alternative to Pax, I went to high school with a boy named Paz (pronounced like "pause").

bunnyslippers said...

How about Honest?

Anonymous said...

I have quadruplets (3 girls and a boy) and they all have virtue names. My girls are: Unity, Heavenly, abd Ethereal (I know that is not really a virtue name but it's close). My son's name is Blithe, which means "happy" or "spirited" and his middle name means "hero", so his name means "happy and spirited hero"!

Anonymous said...

I also have triplets (all girls) and even though they don't have virtue names, one of their names means "queenly". I guess that is why I love names like "Noble" and "Royal". One of my other daughters has the middle name of "Lovely"! And, how about the name "Virtue" for a girl? And I really like "Kindred" for either a boy or girl! Oh, Jessica Alba has 2 girls named Haven and Honor. And, I have a friend whose daughter is "Lively" (my suggestion!).
PS My name is Ila Laventier.

Anonymous said...

Sorry!! I justt wanted to clearify that I am the one with the triplets and quadruplets, and my name is Ila Laventier!

Anonymous said...

Hope can be a boy's name, too.

Anonymous said...

My sons middle name is trust, and my daughters is caprice.

Amber said...

Our 4.5 year old daughter is Mercy, and our sons have the middle names of Honor and Valor. Mercy's name is always received well, and often with comments of "I know someone who's pregnant and can't come up with a name--I'll have to suggest that one!"